Is Moderate Drinking Really Good for Your Health?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/30/2009 5:24 PM   :  87 comments   :  12,050 Views

Numerous studies have suggested that alcohol can be part of a healthy diet. In fact, many suggest that moderate amounts of alcohol can reduce your risk for heart disease and even diabetes. But not all researchers are convinced that alcohol- even in moderation- is good for you.

Critics say that no study has ever proved a causal relationship between moderate drinking and lower disease rates- only that the two tend to go together. Does moderate drinking make you healthier, or is it just that healthy people tend to drink moderately? If you're a moderate drinker, it's assumed that you probably take care of yourself (eating healthy, exercising regularly). So are those the lifestyle habits that most significantly contribute to good health, instead of how much you drink?

According to a New York Times story:
"The bottom line is there has not been a single study done on moderate alcohol consumption and mortality outcomes that is a ‘gold standard’ kind of study — the kind of randomized controlled clinical trial that we would be required to have in order to approve a new pharmaceutical agent in this country,” said Dr. Tim Naimi from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some studies argue that moderate drinkers have a reduced risk of disease versus those who do not drink at all. Critics question who these abstainers are, whether or not they already had heart disease, or whether they quit drinking because they got sick. The answers aren't clear. Moderate drinkers tend to be more educated, more affluent and get better health care than non-drinkers. So it's very difficult to compare the two groups and know that alcohol consumption is the reason for their differing rates of disease. There are just too many variables involved. Some of the research supporting alcohol use has also been funded by the alcohol industry, which adds another degree of complexity to the debate.

Health organizations have differing opinions on alcohol and a healthy diet. While the American Heart Association says that people shouldn't start drinking to prevent heart disease, the United States dietary guidelines say that moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial.

What do you think? Can moderate drinking be part of a healthy diet? Is it part of yours?


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Comments

  • 87
    This is a topic I've been thinking a lot about lately...
    I love my red wine. For about the past month I've had about 3 glasses per week. Not too much. Also, I'm socializing while drinking. I think the social aspect is part of what lends a sense of happiness and healthiness. However, I think alcohol tends to bring out the worst in all of us. - 9/17/2010   11:24:18 AM
  • 86
    Nobody has taken into consideration the fact that some people are alergic to alchol and can even die from it. I'm a believer that there is no such thing as just one drink. If you drink alchol you are a drunk. - 8/10/2010   1:54:17 PM
  • 85
    My parents always had two cocktails before dinner and it was a wonderful time of conversation, time set apart to compare days, what was going on in the world, a time of relaxation in very busy lives that was dedicated to each other. After my father died, Mother continued the habit with telephone calls substituting friends and family conversation for my Father's. But at 97 when she entered a Seniors Home, a pre-dinner drink was not part of the routine. Mother's weight, along with her appetite, plummeted and a family meeting was called. After discussing her previous practices, the doctor prescribed a drink before dinner for her (we brought in the rye which the home treated as a medicine) and soon her appetite and enjoyment in eating returned. Our only problem was convincing the staff that apple juice was not a suitable substitute for ginger ale as the mix: even if it looked the same! Mother lived another five years and her pre-dinner cocktail, I believe, contributed to her long life. - 8/7/2010   12:43:31 PM
  • 84
    I do not drink alcohol at all...it is my personal choice...tried it didn't think it was worth it plus coming from a family with a heredity of alcoholism, it's just something I'm determined to not let be a part of my life. - 8/6/2010   11:17:29 AM
  • 83
    Well...red wine has the flavinoids to help the healthy life. I would not say all types of alcohol are equally good for you. I like a beer now and then, but I guess I would call my alcohol consumption light...not even moderate. And...I like red and white wine both. - 7/22/2010   3:23:20 PM
  • SUZZYBFIT
    82
    Alcohol consumprion does not play a big role in my life or my family. We do indulge in the occasional glass of wine or a cooler during the summer months but only on rare occasions and usually only 2 drinks at the most during each event.
    - 7/20/2010   9:04:59 PM
  • 81
    Drinking is too big a problem in this country. The health effects of alcohol can easily be found in other foods. Berries and grapes for anti-oxidants, fish oil or 81
    mg of aspirin has an anti-coagulation effect.
    If you drink daily for "pleasure" I don't think justifying it as a healthy habit is very smart or helpful. - 5/1/2010   10:52:28 AM
  • AGMURCH
    80
    personal opinion here...not big on the drinking scene, but do think a glass of wine every so often can do wonders. :) - 3/14/2010   1:27:08 PM
  • 79
    Drinking alcohol makes me EAT since I have low resistance to say "no." I avoid drinking. - 1/15/2010   10:33:58 AM
  • 78
    "no study has ever proved a causal relationship between moderate drinking and lower disease rates- only that the two tend to go together"

    As a matter of fact, no study has ever proved a causal relationship between smoking and cancer - only that the two tend to go together. I suspect that the critics of moderate drinking do not criticize the general paradigm on smoking.... - 9/1/2009   8:32:57 PM
  • 77
    I guess moderate drinking can be part of a healthy diet; however I don't think it has to be part of a healthy diet. I believe its up to the individual. To drink or not to drink...that is the question. - 8/17/2009   1:21:25 AM
  • 76
    For me, personally, I do not believe alcohol in moderation can be good for me. I puff up from it. Really, I chalk all my college weight gain to alcohol b/c I was always active and healthy in my food choices... If I drink A (one) beer, I can feel the effects... the bloating, etc and usually one turns to at least three... Then I'm bloated and retaining fluid for the next two days.... If I have three or more (which is not moderate...) My face blows up like a blimp... My mom and dad can honestly tell if I'd "tied one on" just from my face... (When I was in College I could never hide my extra curricular activities from them on breaks... they knew :-( ) I chose to stay away from it.
    A glass of wine, however, does not have the same effects for me. I foresee wine having better health effects then beer. But ONE glass and in moderation. Too much of anything can be detrimental... I chose not to do it at all... Rather not drink my calories... - 8/7/2009   1:29:57 PM
  • 75
    I do believe that a moderate amount of alcohol (wine, beer, spirits) can be part of a healthy diet. There have been many studies showing how red wine in moderation can help reduce heart disease.

    Ultimately, it really should be in moderation. Too much of anything is no good for us. Personally, I do enjoy a nice glass of wine or girlie, fruity cocktail now and then.

    - 7/4/2009   4:15:48 PM
  • 74
    I don't drink. It's not philosophical, I just don't like the taste.
    Does that mean that I am less educated (I have a BA from a nationally ranked university), less affluent (I am retired and have enough money to live comfortably for the next 30 or so years,even though my portfolio has crashed like everyone else's), with poor health care (I am a member of a leading HMO and can see my doctor whenever I wish)?
    Alcohol is a two-edged sword. It is known to cause problems with the liver and other bodily processes. It is known to adversely affect the brain. It supposedly will help prevent heart disease.
    OK, try this one... my parents and all four of my grandparents drank moderately. Mom died of cancer, my father and all of my grandparents died of heart disease. Should I really learn to like alcohol? - 7/3/2009   5:05:43 PM
  • 73
    I would think that wine in moderation is good for you. We have all seen the news reports, internet article and magazine articles on the healthy benefits to drinking a glass of wine a day. However, I dont think that other alcohol such as beer, vodka, rum, etc....have proven health benefits. In fact I think that most are just empty calories being consumed so it has been said. Just my personal opnion. I do drink all of the above but am trying not to since joining SP. I want to live a healthier life and consuming empty calories is just a waste of my time and calories! - 7/3/2009   2:34:58 PM
  • 72
    I think that alcohol in moderation can fit into a healthy diet, but I commend the scientists who are calling out the media for exploiting psudo-science. If there is no Randomized Control Design you can't say anything CAUSED anything. However, the same goes for the argument that alcohol will make you live a shorter time, so I'm going to keep enjoying the occasional beer when it fits into my calorie limit. - 7/3/2009   1:36:26 PM
  • MMTYLER139
    71
    I used to drink beer at least a few times per week, but I have stopped drinking completely for about a month now! I have noticed that the weight has been coming off a little more now than before, but I'm pretty sure the alcohol had something to with it. Maybe once I reach my goal I may consume alcohol again, but for now I'll leave it alone!! - 7/3/2009   11:44:41 AM
  • 70
    I really do believe that an occasional glass of wine or even a Beer in a blue moon with its barely and hops, can add to the variety of what our bodies take in for nourishment and building material. One 12 oz bottle of beer in the morning can be a metabolic booster. LOL However, I DO NOT believe that its the actual fermented part, the alcohol content, that is what it healthy. We can get the same bioflavonoids from red wine in carefully produced grape juice, and barely and hops can be made into whole grain flours for baked products or made into non alcoholic beer. I once read some malarkey about the intoxication being a benefit as a some sort of 'reset' or reboot of the brain. But if you define what it is to be "in" "toxic" "a tion" it means in the state of being poisoned. Jesus might have drunken wine but whose to say how fermented it was or if he ever got drunk as in gluttonous and indulging? As far as what I heard, he changed it into his blood anyway :-) Blood is rich in iron and protein... etc. - 7/3/2009   5:36:47 AM
  • 69
    Everything in moderation - I love my daily glass of wine - just one! - 7/2/2009   7:37:01 PM
  • 68
    I swear that my glass of red wine has helped me loose weight. But, don't know if it is because of the red wine or the fact that I have replaced beer with wine. But, I was stuck, until, I started drinking a glass of red wine everyday. - 7/2/2009   6:25:14 PM
  • 67
    I enjoyed this thought provoking article.
    An interesting challenge for some researcher.
    There are so many factors to control for, how can we be sure?
    Ahhhh- life. My own experiment of one continues. I've recently added 2-3 glasses of wine a week, because I joined a group that chats and drinks wine. (We gather twice a week.) Now, is it the stimulating conversation, the intellectual gambits, the hugs I'm getting- or the wine that makes me feel more centered and whole?
    Yee ha. All of the above are good for me. - 7/2/2009   2:45:18 PM
  • 66
    For me, beer and food go hand in hand, which is bad for my calorie intake. I make much better nutritional choices on the days when I chose not to drink. - 7/2/2009   11:59:30 AM
  • 65
    Yes I think drinking alcohol in moderation is perfectly acceptable. I enjoy an occasional adult beverage and I incoroporate it into my healthy lifestyle. - 7/2/2009   11:35:36 AM
  • 64
    The major reason I don't drink is that I don't need to further complicate my life--- My father died from alcohol abuse (cirrhosis of the liver) at the ripe old age of 46! Judging from the way I eat food and my attitude towards it, I know for a fact that if I even took one drink- I would be hooked and I know moderation would not be an option. I have to take an all or nothing stance when it comes to alcohol and other temptations. If I buy a bag of licorice, chips, cookies- you name it- I don't stop eating until the very last one is gone, in record time no less. It would be the same for alcohol. I LOVE the smell of whiskey, but by saying NO, I aliviate a whole lot of problems in my life. I swore when I was a young child that my chidren would NEVER grow up like I did. Too bad I can't just can't say NO to all eating!! - 7/2/2009   9:36:50 AM
  • 63
    I think that if you enjoy a drink and you don't abuse alcohol there probably isn't any reason to stop. There isn't also any reason to start if you don't usually enjoy a drink--at least not for health reasons. As with all in life--moderation. - 7/2/2009   7:18:33 AM
  • 62
    The dose makes the poison.

    I did just read that alcohol can aggravate allergies, though, so maybe I'd better abstain until grass season is over. - 7/2/2009   12:40:45 AM
  • ROSALINI
    61
    I don't know if it's mind over matter, but my dad has a shot of Sambuca in his espresso every day, and he never is sick (85 on his last birthday).

    We, on occasion, will have a bottle of wine that will last about a week in our house. - 7/1/2009   8:24:43 PM
  • 60
    I was raised to view alcohol in small amounts as medication. It was used --- not necessarily for drinking --- for everything from toothaches to chest colds. I can remember the doctor prescribing a minute amount of red wine for my grandmother and grandfather to alleviate rheumatism and help with their heart health.

    To me, the blood results told the story. I watched their cholesterol and triglyceride levels go down and they modified nothing else (too stubborn). They don't fit into the group described (not exactly moderate drinkers, they didn't drink at all unless it was medicinal, and they certainly weren't more affluent and they didn't eat better) so I have to think that there probably is some merit to the medicinal value of alcohol.

    I do, however, believe it depends on the type of alcohol and how much is being consumed. I now take about 4 ounces of a red wine three times a week and I'm seeing the same results my grandparents had in my blood work. I think I will continue the trend as it does seem to help. - 7/1/2009   5:22:25 PM
  • 59
    I really don't care if it is good for me. I drink because I like to. Just like I would have a chocolate malt if I wanted one. I think drinking can absolutely be a part of a healthy diet, just like occasionally eating junk food is, so what's the fuss? - 7/1/2009   5:22:01 PM
  • 58
    I do think moderate drinking can be part of a healthy diet.... Why not, moderation is the key. Now, is it something to start if you don't drink now in order to promote health, I doubt it. However, if you enjoy a glass of wine or a beer once in awhile, why can't it be part of your healthy diet and exercise routine? - 7/1/2009   5:06:48 PM
  • 57
    I do like a glass of wine ( or 2 ) now and again, or an oz of baileys in my coffee once in awhile. My favorite social drink is a nice margaritta. I work it into my daily calories when I do have a drink. Red wine is good for the health and almost anything is good in moderation. - 7/1/2009   2:47:07 PM
  • 56
    Yes, technically alcohol is a a poison. Despite this, I still drink about 2 glasses of red wine a day and enjoy it. My main concern is that it makes up 15% of may daily calories, and that seems too high. I should get it down to under 10%, I suspect. - 7/1/2009   12:57:02 PM
  • 55
    I enjoy alcohol when I can work it into my calorie count - usually once a week I'll have a few drinks to unwind with friends or celebrate. I would rather keep a few lbs on and enjoy myself than give it up. Maybe one day my priorities will change, but for now it works for me! - 7/1/2009   12:45:14 PM
  • 54
    I don't drink alcohol. I did when I was young, but felt I no longer needed the calories, I could feel the difference after one in the morning, don't need that. Too many people die as a result of injesting alcohol, so I don't see the need. - 7/1/2009   12:37:33 PM
  • 53
    I personally do not drink alcoholic beverages and do not doubt the beneficial effects for those who do so moderately. - 7/1/2009   12:21:31 PM
  • 52
    I think it's bad for our health...even moderately...as we all know, processed foods are bad for our health, so I'd say alcohol is bad too, since its processed also.

    But, that isn't to say that I don't like an occasional drink...only problem is, if I do drink, which isn't often, I like to drink til I've got a buzz. - 7/1/2009   12:20:31 PM
  • 51
    I to would like to see a more controlled and and concise study. But I of the camp that says in moderation it seems to be a good thing. Again isn't it the red whine's doctors say are beneficial? - 7/1/2009   11:18:19 AM
  • 50
    I see the alcohol question as a little bit irrelevant. Coach Nicole in her blog about not having a six-pack said that she can still be healthy without having rock-hard abs, and in order to get rock-hard abs, she would have to sacrifice a lot of the things she really loves. I feel the same way about alcohol, kind of. Maybe it's not necessarily good for you all the time. I'm not a big drinker myself, but when I want a beer, I WANT A BEER.

    The NY Times used to have this series called "Proof" about alcohol in America, and while a lot of the contributors were reformed alcoholics, talking about how good it felt to get sober, there were also quite a lot of contributors writing about bar culture, or perfect cocktails, and even unapologetic alcoholics who do it 'cause they like it.

    Anyway, if you can't show me that it's bad for your health to have a couple of drinks every once in a while, maybe get tanked on Christmas with your uncle once a year...

    The point that I think SparkPeople is trying to make is that healthy living isn't about disciplining yourself, and abstaining from things you really enjoy. So what if you never get that six-pack, or if you and your partner suck down a really good bottle of wine on your anniversary and it gives you a hangover the next day... If you enjoy something, like chocolate or alcohol, you should be allowed to indulge... just practically, and in moderation. Nobody's perfect. - 7/1/2009   11:16:02 AM
  • 49
    It could give me laser vision and invisibility, and I still wouldn't do it. I just generally don't drink. I don't enjoy it -- the taste or the sensation (my legs ache before I can get to the "fun" part, which is really uncomfortable). - 7/1/2009   10:54:46 AM
  • 48
    Drinking in moderate amounts can send a soul over the legal limits....which I don't see as being healthy at all. - 7/1/2009   10:49:44 AM
  • 47
    The problem is that the studies don’t always agree on what constitutes “moderate” drinking. Does moderation mean have a few drinks 2-3 times a week? Does it mean having a single drink everyday? Does it mean drinking until we’re flat on our backs, as long as we only do it once or twice a month? Each one of these examples could mean moderation.

    Many studies differ widely on what moderation means and until there is a common acceptance of what that means, the findings/outcomes of whether it is a healthy part of one’s diet will be muddy. - 7/1/2009   10:23:22 AM
  • DEBBIEKAY1
    46
    I believe that anything in moderation is good - 7/1/2009   10:07:26 AM
  • 45
    I've been reading through the comments and what really surprises me is how many adults will have a drink because of social pressure. I have never been pressured to choose alcohol. Offered it and maybe got raised eyebrows if I refused but never pressured. Maybe I've just been fortunate enough to never have been put in that position. Regardless, I know I would still make my decision based on my personal preference, not on whether I would get treated differently. People treating me differently for my choice of water over alcohol would simply mean these are people who do not need to be regular companions. I will gladly spend time with people who express healthy concern over choosing one alcoholic beverage too many but not with those who would discourage a choice that is neither unhealthy or harmful to others based solely on their own personal preference. - 7/1/2009   9:57:31 AM
  • RUNGRL26
    44
    I wonder if it's kind of like germs. If you never are around germs, you get sick faster and worse than someone who has been around germs all their life. If you drink occasionally, it makes your body stronger and able to fight off certain diseases and habits that are linked to heavier alchol use. I would be interested in seeing them do a study. - 7/1/2009   9:56:07 AM
  • PADRAIGHA
    43
    As the now adult daughter of alcoholic, legally unfit parents, only rarely do I have drink. For me it seems unwise to think that I could "drink moderately." - 7/1/2009   9:54:06 AM
  • 42
    I think this is one of many examples of supposed "links" that people have made, which were never shown to be causal in scientific studies. Two things happening at the same time doesn't necessarily mean that one causes the other. Thanks for bringing this up. It's a good reminder that we need to be skeptical of this kind of information, and of studies that do not follow rigorous standards (there are so many...) - 7/1/2009   9:42:37 AM
  • NKENGA
    41
    A lot of people have pointed out that alcohol is a poison. Actually, ANYTHING can be a poison, if you take too much. Food can be an addiction, as many of us here on this site can attest.

    Alcohol is not all bad, nor is it all good. A drink a day is fine for the vast majority of people, but for some it is way too much. Some view it as empty calories, other view it as a pleasurable beverage to accompany a meal or a social event.

    I like to drink, but I hate when people drink to excess. I've split a couple of bottles of wine with a friend in an evening, and I've gone weeks without drinking at all. I've also dated an alcoholic, and seen the problems alcoholism can cause a family, although luckily not first-hand.

    If people are making choices that are well thought-out, there is rarely a problem. - 7/1/2009   9:03:08 AM
  • DANALEE72
    40
    I was at my skinniest of 112 lbs. when I drank. However, I was 23 years old and was constantly dancing when I was drinking so I attribute my weight to that extra exercise of dancing. I'm now 36 and a mom of 2 so I very rarely drink. I may drink a couple times one year and then not drink again for 2 or 3 years. Although, I do agree I was less stressed back then so there may be something to that part. I think more controlled studies need done to give validity to the argument that moderate drinking is good for you. - 7/1/2009   8:55:28 AM
  • 39
    I think an occasional drink can be part of a healthy diet. I have a drink every now and then. I can take it or leave it. I have to admit that I can hardly go to a baseball game without a tall cup of cold beer! - 7/1/2009   8:49:10 AM
  • 38
    I do tend to enjoy alcohol a bit - mostly everything besides wine coolers. I may have a beer or two after work on some nights, or if I go out to eat or visit with friends I'll do a few drinks. Though the last time I went on a major diet (before SP) I severely limited myself and found that alcohol does take a toll on the empty calories. - 7/1/2009   8:44:59 AM

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